Work in Progress – Processes for Advancing Scholarly Writing

Jill gave a report from the WIP Conference at Cardozo over the weekend, and Cardozo’s Lela Love – who is as gracious a host as you can find – was kind enough to send along her thoughts about the conference as well.  Here’s hoping that next year’s conference is as successful as this year’s was.


A group of thirty scholars convened at Cardozo from November 7-9 to discuss ADR “works in progress”.  We enjoyed a delightful time together discussing twenty very different projects of:  Hiro Aragaki, Michael Colatrella, Deborah Eisenberg, Jackie Font-Guzman, Douglas Frenkel and Jim Stark, Jonathan Hyman, Ethan Katsh and Orna Rabinovitch-Einy , Maureen Laflin, John Lande, Jeremy McClane, Lauren Newell, Sean Nolon, Lydia Nussbaum, Glen Parker, Carol Pauli, Richard Reuben, Andrea Schneider and Nancy Welsh, Jennifer Schulz, Jean Sternlight, and Elizabeth Tippett.  While many of the ideas presented by these scholars were riveting, the take-away from the conference had more to do with process than substance.

The conference was marked by experimentation in terms of using a variety of ways to give feedback to scholars.  Every presenter in the conference was given 10 minutes to make a standard (often power point) presentation to supplement abstracts that were distributed to attendees, but each presentation was followed by different procedures to structure responses.

Different methods included:

  1.  Presentations each of which were immediately followed by 5 minute (silent) writing on note cards to give feedback, notes and recommendations.  The note cards were given to each speaker at the conclusion of the panel.
  2. Presentations each of which were immediately followed by a commentator making comments and leading a large group discussion in response to each speaker.
  3. Three presentations in a row followed by circulating large sheets of newsprint among three tables which asked a table group of participants at each table to write comments in response to the scholars (who prepared questions in advance) either directly on the newsprint or on post-its that were put on the newsprint.  The feedback was given to each speaker at the close of the exercise.
  4. Presentations followed by a moderator leading a large group discussion on the ideas presented.
  5. Presentations followed by the presenters themselves asking the audience questions about their topic.
  6. Presentations followed by the large group splitting up to give intimate round table feedback to individual scholars.

Praise and critique for the formats included the points that:

  • Variety keeps everyone’s attention!  It may be too much to listen to two days of presentations in identical formats.   The variety of procedures is a plus.
  • We should have had yet another process option:  the chance to read full drafts, followed by more detailed feedback and critique.

Lesson:  process is important—not a surprising lesson to emerge from an ADR conference!  In this case, good process may help produce better writing.

The conference opened with Auden’s tribute to Yeats which pays homage to the power and immortality of good writing.  Let’s hope our ADR scholarship can be written in such a way to (like Yeats) have a large and lasting impact.

Time that is intolerant

Of the brave and the innocent,

And indifferent in a week

To a beautiful physique,


Worships language and forgives

Everyone by whom it lives;

Pardons cowardice, conceit,

Lays its honours at their feet.


Time that with this strange excuse

Pardoned Kipling and his views,

And will pardon Paul Claudel,

Pardons him for writing well.


from WH Auden on the death in memory of WB Yeats

Lela P. Love